Steve Kerr and players running the show

Originally published in Hard2Guard Player Development Newsletter, 8.3. Subscribe here

Steve Kerr allowed Warrior players to run the huddles during their game against Phoenix last night. His decision has inspired praise from those who view it as empowering players and derision from those who view it as disrespecting an opponent or evidence that the Warriors are so good that they do not need a coach. What’s the big deal?

In nearly every practice, we play a simulated game. We play four quarters with the quarters anywhere from one to three minutes. We have two teams. Players coach themselves. Players substitute themselves. Players set their defense and call their own plays (Occasionally I insist on a specific defense or plays for a quarter to practice for an upcoming opponent, but generally, they choose offenses and defenses for at least two of the quarters). After a quarter, I may ask questions or review a new situation that occurred, but generally they coach themselves to win the game.

I want to win the end of quarters, which is one reason that we spend time on these situations. Last game, we had one more possession in three out of four quarters. That is a potential six to nine extra points in a game because we value the end of periods and practice these situations two to three times per week. I want to be prepared for end-game situations. I do not rely on drawing up a play at the end of a game. I may call a timeout to organize, advance the ball, or substitute, but we run one of our practiced plays, which they choose to run during these scrimmages.

Kerr’s decision is headline news today because it is the NBA and the Warriors generate great dialogue because of their dedicated fans and detractors, but what is the big deal? These are professional players. Do we really believe that they are so clueless about basketball that they have no idea what play to call or defense to run? Do we believe that professional players are mindlessly running around a court following a coach’s directions without any thinking, anticipating, adjusting and adapting? Is that our vision of athletes?

I once wrote on a coach’s message forum that we should develop players who are capable of playing well in pickup games. This was met with derision from high school coaches, as was most everything that I wrote back in the early ‘00s, because many coaches have a negative impression of pickup basketball, at least in terms of its fundamental execution. I still believe that it is true. Successful pickup players do not rely on a coach’s offense or instructions; they can adapt to different teammates, positions, and demands. Why do we believe that the coaches should possess all the knowledge? Why do we not value what players see on the court? Furthermore, how do we improve their knowledge if we never challenge them to think or make decisions?

Our perceptions of coaching and what it means for player development

Read more

Dogfooding your coaching

In the August 2013 Wired, Clive Thompson introduced me to a term that I had never heard: Dogfooding. Thompson wrote that Microsoft coders invented the term in the 1980s, as it described coders having to use their own products day in and day out. The idea was that if you use your own product, you will find the bugs and be more motivated to fix them and create a better product. Thompson introduced the idea in his article “Mr. Senator, Eat Your Own Dog Food” as a way to encourage the federal government to get more done. Read more

Coaching skills and player development

Last week, I tweeted, “After the season, a head coach at a lower-level college said that she was too good for the level because her players lacked skills.” The general responses on twitter were that she should move to a lower competitive level.  Read more

Coaching Frosh Basketball Year Two, Day One

Tryouts have started. We have roughly 40 players for 12-15 spots. The freshmen class is talented, which is good and bad. The best freshman went straight to varsity, and we are likely to lose anywhere between four and eight more players to the sophomore and/or junior varsity. Certainly hurts our competitiveness as a freshmen team, but gives a lot of players a chance, as there could be close to 25 freshmen in the program this year.  Read more

Do your players know why?

In this presentation, Simon Sinek asserts that the great leaders starts with the why and work to the how and the what, rather than starting with the what and moving to the how. Do your players know why? Do you? Read more

Testing (Playing Games) as a Means of Learning

I have not read Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother, but I have followed the angst surrounding its publication (seems more like marketing than controversy). On her blog, Sian Beilock related one recent finding to the book and to her book, Choke. Read more

What is Coaching?

Coaching is a true generalist profession. Coaches have to have some knowledge of a multiple of other disciplines from psychology to management to kinesiology. However, what is coaching? Is it just the amalgamation of other professions into a competitive arena or it a distinct profession with its own disciplines and sub-disciplines? Read more

Beginning the Coaching Process: Think, Plan, Do

Clive Woodward is the British Olympic Association’s Director of Elite Performance. Previously, he led England to the 2003 Rugby World Cup. After the World Cup victory, he wrote Winning! about the experiences leading up to the triumph.

“Think, Plan, Do” was something of a personal mantra or philosophy that he used whenever presented with a new opportunity. When he accepted his first job coaching a club rugby team – Henley – he writes: Read more

Why all the Yelling and Screaming?

On a repeat episode of the Daily Show last night, the guest was famed chef Mario Battali. The discussion moved to Gordon Ramsey and chefs who use their outside voice, and Battali said:

“Typically, chefs who yell at their cooks are expressing their own self-loathing for not having prepared their staff properly.”

Same is true with basketball coaches and players.

By Brian McCormick
Author, Cross Over: The New Model of Youth Basketball Development, Developing Basketball Intelligence and several other books for coaches.

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